Monday, June 6, 2016

Dolores Hildago...a quaint little village in the mountains!

Over the last few days we have taken some day trips to one of the outlying towns and another to a nearby city. Our first trip was to Dolores Hilgado, about a 45 minute bus ride away. Unlike San Miguel, which has a large expat community, Dolores Hilgado is almost exclusively Mexican, and we wanted to explore the difference in the way the community feels.

The bus ride itself was quite pleasant, and the buses here are very nice, the terminals are modern and clean, and the buses are on time. It has been awhile since I took a Greyhound in the US, but the last time I did the experience was less than pleasing! The stations were mostly grungy and smelled of diesel and urine, the staff was surly, and the buses were crowded and dirty. By contrast, the buses here have seating nearly the equivalent of a First Class airline seat with plenty of legroom, they are spotlessly clean, and the staff was helpful and courteous. It is interesting a less than affluent country like Mexico can run a first class transportation system, while the US cannot. I am curious to travel on one of their trains as I have used Amtrak a number of times, and while it is a little better than Greyhound, it pales in comparison to the bullet trains I have ridden in Europe.

We arrived in Dolores Hilgado around 10 am and it was a short walk to the Centro from the station. Once we got our bearings, we took a bit of a walk around town and checked out the sights. It was a classic Mexican town where life revolves around the town square and the hustle and bustle of street vendors fills the air. Virtually no one here spoke much English, so my Spanish was tested to the max. After a bit of walking we found a decent looking restaurant to grab a little lunch and I am pretty sure the tall, slender, dark-skinned, olive-eyed senorita that beckoned us in had nothing to do with my choice. No English was spoken here, but I find menus pretty easy to decipher. Having the servers understand me however is another story, but I managed to wrestle my way through without ordering fried walrus tusks or cowboy boot rellenos!

Know for its pottery and some unusual flavors of ice cream, after a few more hours of shooting photos and wandering about the town, we decided to try and get a beer at one of the small cantina's scattered about the town. If they have a swinging door and look like something out of a Pancho Villa movie, then you will probably find them to be "muy athentico" inside. We pushed our way through the doors, endured the stares of the entire group at the bar, and rather than slink off to one of the tables we sat down right at the bar and ordered some beers. This seemed to meet with the general approval of the patrons, and within a few minutes a man sat down next to us and asked "como se llama?". This being one of the few questions I actually remember from my Spanish lessons long ago,  I gave my reply in my best rapid-fire Spanish "Se llama Juan!". Well this was a really big hit and his face lit up like the scoreboard at Wrigley Field. "John" he said, I am John too!", and I felt like Arlo Guthrie at the Group W bench when he admitted his crime of "littering, and creating a nuisance". From that moment on we were "in" at the cantina and Juan regaled us with his adventures in the US in a blend of Spanish and English. Although I did not understand everything he said, I just kept grinning and nodding and this seemed to satisfy him. As we prepared to leave, Juan, who was pretty well into his cups by this time, persuaded one of his friends to shoot a photo on his phone so he could "show his wife" the Americano's he had met. Pretty sure she was going to be thrilled!

We decided to head back to the bus station and see if we could grab an earlier bus as we had pretty well seen most of this small village. As we sat down, the wind started to blow, lightning flashed across the sky, and within what seemed like seconds huge sheets of rain fell out of the previously nearly cloudless sky. What ensued was one of the most powerful downpours I had ever seen. The street vendors scrambled to protect their goods and we boarded, getting soaked in the 10 ft or so to the bus. As we headed out of town, the streets had begun to flood, the Policia were already blocking the entrance to some roads, and the driver was lucky to get us out just in time. The rain continued for a while and you could see the smaller cars and trucks pulling off the road until things subsided. Other than limited visibility, the bus plowed through the water and about half way back to town, the rain suddenly quit. When we got to San Miguel, it was obvious it hadn't rained a drop there! to Guanajuato and the Museum of the Mummies!

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